Posts Tagged ‘Parliament’
The General Election is a matter of months away. Once again, this is an election in which only two parties are competing to form a government – Labour or the Tories.
A series of opinion polls have pointed strongly to the defeat of the Labour government. The outcome, however, is not a foregone conclusion. A recent poll suggests that the result will be finely balanced, with a hung parliament a real possibility.
Respect is neither neutral nor indifferent to the outcome of this election. We think that a Tory victory would be a disaster for working people. Yes, New Labour has betrayed the aspirations of its traditional electorate in working class communities, among Black and Asian communities, and among trades unionists. But its strongest support still comes from these communities and the vast majority of the trade union movement will support Labour at the next election. Despite the efforts of the New Labour clique that now dominates the Labour Party, it is still seen by millions of people as a party that looks after the interests of working people – albeit a disastrously right wing example of such a party.
A Tory victory in the context of a deep economic crisis will herald a deep attack on the welfare state. The Tory obsession with cutting the national debt not only risks a deeper and more prolonged recession, but will inevitably lead to a massive assault on public services and public sector workers. It will represent a much more profound shift to the right in the political agenda. Respect therefore stands with the vast majority of the labour movement in seeking the defeat of the Tory challenge at this election.
Under Blair, and now Brown, Labour have demoralised large parts of its traditional support. Many people have broken from Labour to the left in disgust at Blair’s support for the Iraq war, and New Labour’s subservience to the bankers and privatisers. Respect was born out of the movement against the Iraq war, and we have successfully built a real base in limited parts of the country. We believed then, and believe now, that there is an urgent need for a radical left wing party that can help shift the political consensus towards an agenda of peace, anti-racism and social justice.
In 3 parliamentary seats in Birmingham and East London, Respect is fighting to win. We do not know what the outcome will be, and we are well aware of the difficulties in the way of small parties under a first past the post electoral system. But in these 3 seats we have a genuine chance of victory. We have deep roots and credible candidates. There are only a handful of seats up for grabs in the general election that could conceivably be won by parties to the left of Labour (including the challenge by Caroline Lucas for the Green Party). The most important contribution that we in Respect can make to the left as a whole in the immediate future is to do everything within our power to win these seats.
We do not believe, however, that a radical alternative can be built by acting in way that allows the Tories – or the BNP – to be the beneficiaries of discontent with Labour or our efforts to build an alternative. In areas where we are highly unlikely to win it is important that we are not seen to be reckless over the consequences of standing in marginal seats where the likely beneficiary would be the Tories. Where we do stand, we want our supporters to know they can express their discontent with the Labour government without handing seats on a plate to the Tories.
We are also in favour of the maximum possible unity against the BNP. Nick Griffin has announced he is standing in Barking and Dagenham. His election to the European parliament was an historic breakthrough for British fascism. But it would be nothing in comparison to a BNP MP. Hard choices have to be made. There is absolutely no prospect of a candidate to the left of Labour winning this seat, and any such candidate could only split the anti-BNP vote.
Respect will therefore not consider standing in Barking and Dagenham, and call on other left wing parties to do likewise. We are well aware of the way in which New Labour have created the conditions for the BNP to grow, and equally aware that Labour’s candidate, Margaret Hodge, is one of the least palatable New Labour MPs. Nonetheless we call for a vote for the Labour candidate as the only practical way of defeating the BNP.
Respect believes that the interests of working people are best served by working for the maximum unity against a Tory victory in the General Election, while continuing to build left wing alternatives to the Labour Party in the most tactically effective manner.
Salma Yaqoob will be appearing on BBC1’s Question Time, 10.35pm Thursday December 10.
Cross–party political figures, religious leaders, trade unionists and anti-racist campaigners were amongst the individuals who launched a new campaign “One Society Many Cultures” and pledged to stand up against division and hatred, to defend the right to freedom of thought, religion and culture at one of the most diverse events ever held in Parliament.
Speakers at the event included Ken Livingstone, Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP – Minister for Transport, Simon Hughes MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Susan Kramer MP, Dr Abdul Bari – Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain, Rabbi Lee Wax – Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Bruce Kent – Vice President of Pax Christi, Dabinderjit Singh OBE – Sikh Secretariat, Anas Altikriti – British Muslim Initiative, Billy Hayes – General Secretary of Communication Workers Union, Diana Holland – Assistant General Secretary UNITE, Jenny Jones – Green Party London Assembly Member, Salma Yaqoob – Leader of The Respect Party, Pav Akhtar – Chair of Imaan, Weyman Bennet – Love Music Hate Racism, Sabby Dhalu – Unite Against Fascism.
The campaign, which was initiated by Ken Livingstone, aims to bring together people of all faiths and none. It will monitor and respond to discrimination against different communities as well as promote the positive benefits of diversity for the economy, culture and society generally.
Salma Yaqoob, Leader of The Respect Party said:
“This slogan One Society Many Cultures is absolutely necessary now. Black people, Asian people, Irish people and Jewish communities have been demonized at different points at history. If you are Muslim right now in this country, your mental health status, who you sleep with and your political and religious views are being recorded. Black, White, Asian, people of faith and no faith let us take this fight up not just against racism but for equality, for fairness, for everybody.”
More at Progressive London here.
Report by Abu Jamal and Adam Yosef
A public meeting entitled ‘Pakistan in Crisis’, held by Respect at the Birmingham Central Mosque in the Highgate area of the city on Saturday (18th Oct), was attended by over 250 people.
Salma Yaqoob, city councillor for Sparkbrook, set the tone for the meeting by condemning the recent US military operations in Pakistan which have created numerous civilian casualties; and spoke of the hypocrisy of the British media for failing to report these attacks “on a sovereign nation”.
“We care about every single human being, whether they’re in Birmingham, Baghdad or Pakistan. We do not have the double standards of the British government and media,” she said.
She called for a genuine democratic Pakistan that would not tolerate US military attacks on its own people and explained the current crisis in Pakistan could only be resolved by ordinary people struggling for peace, justice and equality.
“I want to see a democratic Pakistan, a peaceful Pakistan, free of all corrupt influences. We need a Pakistan without religious intolerance, that’s what most Pakistanis want. They don’t need Western leaders lecturing them on religion.”
George Galloway, Respect’s MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, spoke at length on the recent history of Pakistan and Kashmir, and received a rousing reception upon declaring the “people of Kashmir have every right and dignity to fight for the freedom of their land.”
He briefly focused on “The Hangman” Zia-Ul-Haq (a reference to General Zia’s execution of former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979), highlighting how Zia became America’s favourite in a line of ‘dictators’. Galloway went on to challenge the corrupt nature of General Pervez Musharraf and how his craven support for US policy in the region had not protected the Pakistani people but exploited them for financial gain.
The outspoken Member of Parliament told a diverse audience that recent bombings in the south Asian state were a direct result of the unstable war in Afghanistan. He also claimed the ‘War on Terror’, which has recently spilled into the country with US bombing strikes frequently targeting South Waziristan, was being allowed due to the complacency of British Pakistani MPs.
“I love Pakistan, all my life I have loved it, even before it became two countries,” he said. “We are reminded that there are four Pakistani MPs in Parliament. A fact I nearly forgot as none of them has raised a finger or voice against the US-led attack on Pakistan. They’re just there to be reeled in when their political leaders want to justify an attack on Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Pakistan.”
Galloway also noted the political silence of another MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, whose Parliamentary Hall Green seat Salma Yaqoob intends to challenge at the next General Election. His views were echoed by Yaqoob herself, who urged Muslims from the region to increase pressure on Asian councillors or deny them their vote.
“We need to tell these people who come to our homes asking for our votes, and there are over twenty Asian councillors in Birmingham, we need to tell them they will not get our votes unless they do something to help the people of Pakistan,” she explained.
“They [US/UK coalition] haven’t learnt from the past and are taking their war into Pakistan. As people from all backgrounds, and I stand here as a proud British citizen, we cannot allow this to happen in our name.
“We have that special responsibility as British citizens to pressure our government to stop bombing Afghanistan. If Afghanistan hadn’t been bombed, Pakistan would have never been bombed,” she added.
The meeting was primarily attended by members of the Pakistani, Somali and Arab community, many of whom identified with the political climate in Pakistan. Galloway also touched on the crisis in Somalia, reminding the audience their taxes contributed towards the conflict in the African country.
“In Somalia, the country is occupied by Ethiopian armed forces, paid for by you. Perhaps you didn’t realise the British government is supplying and paying for a foreign army to occupy Somalia.
“They’re doing so using your money while children still suffer a famine on both sides.”
He concluded by imploring those in attendance to support Salma Yaqoob’s campaign to become MP for the Birmingham Hall Green constituency, in an effort to highlight, challenge and resolve many of the issues that had been discussed.
“Can you imagine if Salma Yaqoob was standing in Parliament as an MP. You might not see her in Downing Street but you’d see her in Parliament day after day speaking out against the oppression of the downtrodden people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan. So you have to support and raise funds for Salma’s campaign so she can become the MP for Hall green in Birmingham.”
His appeal was reiterated by fellow speaker and activist Yvonne Ridley.
“There are many reasons to support Respect and for supporting Salma Yaqoob. We need as much help as we can get to continue holding rallies like this and getting Salma Yaqoob into Parliament is going to cost money.
“We don’t have corporate fat cats throwing money towards us and that’s a good thing. Please dig deep and give generously. You have a fantastic candidate in Salma Yaqoob, someone who cares about issues locally, nationally and internationally.”
The gathering was chaired by Councillor Mohammed Ishtiaq. Other speakers included Councillor Naeem Ullah Khan, local activist Richard Hutcher and Pakistani political commentator Choudary Tasadiq Arvi.